After a COVID cancellation in the winter and an eight month break, the IIHF World Junior Championship returned this month and concluded on Saturday. It was a successful event for several Columbus Blue Jackets prospects.
First, the Czechs finished in fourth place, with three Blue Jackets draftees among the top ten in team scoring. 2021 seventh rounder Martin Rysavy scored two goals:
2021 third rounder Stanislav Svozil had a goal and two assists, and fellow defenseman and 2022 first round pick David Jiricek had four assists. Cleveland Monsters goalie signee Pavel Cajan played just one period, allowing a single goal on nine shots faced.
The Canadians won gold, and Kent Johnson was a big part of it. He had nine points in seven games, which was fourth best on his team. He led the entire tournament field in shots on goal, which suggests that with better puck luck, he could have scored even more.
SOG:— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) August 21, 2022
Kent Johnson (CBJ): 42
Jiri Kulich (BUF): 34
Mason McTavish (ANA): 32
Connor Bedard (2023): 29
Joakim Kemell (NSH): 27
Roni Hirvonen (TOR): 26
Kent Johnson (CBJ) has seven shots on goal through two periods tonight. Oddly enough, outside of the Michigan, he has been the tournament's most snakebitten player.— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) August 15, 2022
Four points in 3.66 games so far and he should have twice as many.
Let’s look at some of the plays he was involved in that did go through. First, the Michigan product scored a Michigan:
A Michigan man with a Michigan goal https://t.co/jZtQG0AkXR— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) August 13, 2022
Can you believe this spin and pass at the blue line to set up this goal?
The gold medal game against Finland went to overtime, where it was KJ that delivered the tournament winner:
Johnson’s performance earned the attention of his childhood idol and soon-to-be teammate.
Kent Johnson!!! Well done!!! Congrats!!!@BlueJacketsNHL— Johnny Gaudreau (@johngaudreau03) August 21, 2022
Gaudreau has already promised to take Johnson to dinner in exchange for Johnson surrendering #13; do you suppose they’ll have anything to talk about?
More like Johnny Good-reau
Each Sunday between now and the start of the season, NHL Network is recognizing the best players at each position, followed by a countdown of the Top 50 players in the league right now. Last night, Gaudreau was ranked seventh among wingers, one spot ahead of our old friend Artemi Panarin. NHL Network analyst Mike Rupp said “If you give him time, you give him space and he’s very good at creating it on his own, he’ll eat you up. He’ll simply eat you up and I can’t wait to see what he can do in Columbus with Patrik Laine on the other side.”
What do you think of these rankings? Should any other Jacket (i.e. Laine) have been included?
Speaking of Gaudreau and his former team...
For weeks, the NHL world was left scratching its heads about Nazem Kadri remaining unsigned. This was a very good center, fresh off playing a key role for a Stanley Cup champion. Usually teams rush to sign a guy like that, right? One theory was that he had signed with the New York Islanders, where GM Lou Lamoriello has a history of announcing his signings all at once, closer to the start of camp. Well, that...did not happen. Instead, Kadri signed with the Calgary Flames.
Credit to GM Brad Treliving for making the most of what looked to be a catastrophic off-season for a team that was one of the best of the regular season. Gone are top line wingers Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, but in their place are Kadri and Jonathan Huberdeau, plus defenseman Mackenzie Weegar. Treliving also flipped a first round pick from the Tkachuk trade to move Sean Monahan’s contract off the cap. I have concern about the Huberdeau and Kadri contracts in the long term, but in the short term the Flames should remain a top team in the Pacific.
Meanwhile, what are the Islanders doing? They’re like Ned Flanders’ parents: “We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.” One could make the case that they were victims of bad luck last season, and can return to their previous form. I’m sure they can have some positive regression, but they were 17 points out of a playoff spot; regression won’t make up all of that. The core players are two years older than they were the last time they were in the final four, so counting on them bouncing back is less of a certainty. Oh, and there’s not much help coming up the pipeline, as Scott Wheeler had their system ranked 31st back in February and Corey Pronman had them ranked 27th in September. Will Mathew Barzal want to re-sign next summer?
Play me out
Did anyone else watch the series premiere of House of the Dragon last night? It’s a prequel to Game of Thrones, set 170 years prior to the events of that series. It has the same look and feel that fans loved, but seems like it will have a more focused storyline. Hopefully the show-runners of this one have a better idea of how their story will end.